South Africa’s William Zulch in action during day 1 of the David Samaai Junior Open at Kelvin Grove Tennis Courts on Monday. Photo: Peter Heeger
South Africa’s William Zulch in action during day 1 of the David Samaai Junior Open at Kelvin Grove Tennis Courts on Monday. Photo: Peter Heeger

SA wild card William Zulch downs Swedish opponent at ITF tournament

By Herman Gibbs Time of article published Oct 25, 2021

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Cape Town – Wild card William Zulch kept the South African flag flying at the David Samaai Junior Open, the ITF Junior Grade A tournament, which started in windy conditions at Kelvin Grove, Newlands, on Monday.

Zulch, the Paarl Boys High matriculant, defeated Sweden's unseeded Michael Minasyan 4-6 6-3 7-6 (6) in a topsy turvy encounter that lasted just under three hours.

Apart from clinching the win, Zulch was overwhelmed by Swede Björn Borg, one of the world's greatest ever players, watching his match. His opponent Minasyan plays doubles with Borg's son Leo Borg, the tournament top seed, hence the legend's interest.

Like Zulch, the son of the 'Ice-Borg', also needed three sets to triumph in his first-round encounter against Ron Ellouck from Israel. Borg, ranked 31 in world juniors, won 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-2.

Tennis icon Björn Borg watches during the David Samaai Junior Open at Kelvin Grove Tennis Courts on Monday. Photo: Peter Heeger

Composure was crucial for Zulch in the opening set after he raced ahead 4-0, and then things started going downhill. He lost the next six games to surrender the set 6-4.

"I started to make so many errors, although he also started to improve his game. I knew I had to stay calm when we started the second set," said Zulch afterwards.

He didn't have the start he wanted when he trailed 1-3 early in the second set, but he recovered bravely to secure two breaks of serve before closing out a 6-4 win to force a third set.

"It was quite a fightback, and the games were very tight. I knew I was in with a chance if I kept fighting, and then I had the two breaks," said Zulch.

The third set went with serve and needed a tiebreaker to separate the two. At 6-5, Zulch spurned two match points, and then he could not avoid the tiebreaker.

The tiebreaker was delicately poised after Zulch allowed the Swede back in the game at 6-all after leading 6-3. At that point, Zulch reeled out two matchwinning forehands, which blew the Swede away and earned the SA wild card a second-round berth.

Next up for Zulch will be the fifth-seeded Slovenia Sebastian Dominko, who has a junior world ranking of 58.

Another South African to catch the eye was KwaZulu-Natal's Luc Koenig, the son of former professional Robbie Koenig, who nowadays works as a commentator on the ATP World Tour.

Koenig pulled off a giant-killing act by defeating the world No 44 ranked Bor Artnak of Slovakia 6-3 6-7 (3) 6-3 in a three-hour show court battle.

Artnak is the tournament fourth seed and one of 11 main draw players ranked inside the world top-100 playing at Kelvin Grove this week.

The windy conditions did not seem to brother Koenig since he is used to these conditions in Hillcrest, where he is based.

Koenig's secured the first-set breakthrough when Artnak dropped serve in the sixth game before he went on to close out the set 6-3.

He had a late second-set hiccup and Artnak capitalised with a strong finish to claim the set in the resultant tie break which he won 7-3.

Koenig made a fine start to the third by breaking Artnak in the opening and never looked to close out a thrilling three-set win.

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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